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Free Study Guide-The Divine Comedy-The Inferno by Dante Alighieri-Notes
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The Pilgrim now finds himself surviving the horrific scene of the ninth Bolgia. It is a picture of mutilated and wounded souls. So many bloody shades inhabit this Bolgia that they outnumber the combined wounded of many battles. The ones mentioned by Dante are battles that occurred in Puglia and the battles by Robert Gusicand.

One particular shade is very badly ripped open, from his mouth to his anus. His entrails spill out of his cut. He tears open his chest with his own hands and then reveals himself to be Mahomet (the Muslimís Prophet Mahomet). Mahomet points out to Ali whose face is cut from his chin to his forehead. Mahomet tells the two poets that the ninth bolgia contains those who were sowers of scandal and schism in life. They caused discord by their actions and are now rent asunder physically as their punishment. Their wounds are inflicted by a devilís sword. Each time they finish one round of the Bolgia and reach the devil they receive a new cut because their old cut has healed by the time they complete one round.

Seeing Dante on the bridge Mohammed assumes he is a sinner as well. Virgil reveals that Dante is being guided by himself (who is dead) through Hell to learn about it. Virgil swears that he has told the truth. Hearing this many souls stop to store at the Pilgrim. Mohammed entrusts the Pilgrim with a message for Era Dolcino. If Fra Dolcino wants to survive he has to stock up on food. If he doesnít do so he will be defeated by the Novarese who will be aided by the snow that will trap Era Dolcino. After saying this Mohammed leaves them.

Another soul who had heard Virginís words approaches them. This soul is also mutilated. His throat is slit, his nose is cut off from his face and one of his ears is missing. When he approaches the poets he splits open his bleeding throat. He was acquainted with Dante and reveals himself to be Pier da Medicina. He is from Medicina ("the gentle plain...Marcabo.") And he wants Dante to bear a message for two men who are the leading citizens of Fano. He calls them "Messer Guido and...Angiolello". Medicina has divined their future. Malatestino will throw them overboard from a ship. He says they will be drowned near Cattolica. Melatestino ruled Rimini, the land that one of Medicinaís companions in Hell wished he had never seen. Dante says he will deliver the message if he can see the shade that regrets having being in Rimini.

Medicina at once pulls forward a shade and shows the Pilgrim he is talking about. Then he opens his shades mouth to show Dante that he is mute (his tongue is cut off). This mute soul is Curio who urged Caesar to cross the Rubicon and attack Rome.

Mosca, whose hands are cut off addresses the Pilgrim. He repeats his words "Whatís done is over with" that had led to discord in Florence. Dante has no sympathy for him and wishes that all his clan should die. The hurt Mosco goes away from there.

As he is looking around Dante sees a fantastic sight: a headless body, holding its own head in its hand, like a lantern. The body approaches them and holds up the head to speak to them. The shade reveals himself to be Bertran de Born who caused a young prince to rebel against his father. Dante compares de Bornís evil counsel with the one Achitophel gave Absalom against David. Since he caused a rift between father and son he is now punished by having his head severed from his body his punishment or as he says, "In me you see the perfect contrapasso."


The ninth Bolgia is a scene of great mutilation. The wounded souls here are comparable to wounded soldiers at a battle. Hence Dante starts the Canto with the imagery of numerous battles. First he refers to some battles that occurred in Pulgia. Pulgia refers to the southeastern area of the Italian peninsula. The first one Dante mentions where the Pugliase ("grieved for there.... by the Romans") is the long war that took place between the Samnites and the Romans (343-290 BC) The most reference ("the long years... golden wings") is about the second Picnic war (218 - 201 BC) where Hannibalís troops fought against Rome. The Historian Livy recorded that after the battle of Cannave (where Hannibal defeated the Romans in 216 BC) the Carthaginians collected three bushels of rings from the fingers of the dead Romans.

Dante also refers to men killed by Robert Gusiscard. Gusiscard was a Norman adventurer who lived between c.1015 and 1085 A.D. He gained of Aperlia and Calabria. In 1059 he became Gonafoloniar of the church. After that, for nearly 20 years he fought the schismatic Greek and the Saracens for the church in the south of Italy. Later he fought for the Church in the east, raised a siege against Pope Gregory VII (1084) and dead still engaged in warfare.

The comparison "and with those others Alardo conquered, weaponless" This is another battle that occurred in Puglia (the southeastern section of the Italian peninsula). Charles of Anjou set out to attack Manfred, king of Sicily in 1266. Manfredís soldiers blocked the passes that led to the south. Manfredís men who had turned to the side of the enemy left one the passes at Ceprano open. Charles and his men gained access to the south, defeated the Sicilians at Benevento and killed Manfred. The battle took place at Benevento not at Ceprano.

The last example that Dante gives of a battle is the one that occurred between Charles of Anjou and the followers of Manfred. At the battle of Tagliacozzo Charles followed the advice of his general Erard de Valery ("Alardo") and won the battle. Dante says that "old Alardo, conquered, weaponless" because his plan involved brainwork rather than pure physical force. According to this plan they had a hidden reserve of soldiers. And when their enemy, Conradin (Manfredís nephew) seemed to be winning they brought out their soldiers and won.

Having given such extensive references the poets wants the readersí to imagine a scene like a battlefield with wounded and bleeding men. He adds that the mutilated masses in the ninth Bolgia far outnumbered the combined dead and wounded of all the battles he mentioned. In this way he is giving the reader an idea of that horrific scene which he states cannot be aptly described by words. By mentioning bottles he succeeds in his purpose because at once the reader can let his imagination create a picture of pain, brutality and mutilated bodies.

The first sinner who addresses the Pilgrim is Mohammed. Mohammed, the founder of the Mohammedan religion, was born at Mecca around 570 AD and died in 632 AD Mohammed points out to Ali. Ali was the first of Mohammedís followers. He married Fatima, the prophetís daughter. And when Mahomet died in 632 Ali became the Caliph in 656. Both Mahoment and Ali are punished in this bolgia, where sowers of scandal and schism suffer. Dante believed Mahomet and Ali as the reason behind the rift between the Christian Church and Mohammedanism. During Danteís time it was believed that Mahomet was a Christian cardinal who had wanted to become pope.

As these souls walk around the bolgia, their wounds heal. When they complete one round they have to pass a devil. He whips each soul who passes him and the souls finds itself ripped apart once more. The punishment of those who caused rift amongst other men on earth is that now their bodies are torn apart. The conflicts and break-ups they caused are now symbolized by their punishment. The very selves of the creators of schism are torn apart. Moreover they have no relief from their pain. For just as their wound heals, the devil whips them and wounds them again. Thus for all eternity they must suffer without any hope of relief.

Mohammed, seeing the Pilgrim on the bridge takes him for a sinner. Virgil explains that the Pilgrim is alive and just journeying through Hell. When the sinners realize that the Pilgrim will be returning back to the world of living they stop in their tracks. This is because many of them messages they want delivered to their acquaintances who still live.

The first one to entrust the Pilgrim with a message in Mahomet. The message is for "Fra Dolcino". Fra Dolcino was the leader of a religious sect, not a monk as his name seems to imply. Dolcinoís sect, the Apostolic Brothers, was declared heretical and banned by Pope Clement V in 1305. The sect believed in a simple religion like the one that existed during the time of the apostles. One of their tenants was community property and sharing of women. Clement V ordered the elimination of the Brothers and so Dolcino and his followers hid in the hills near Novara. Under attack from the papal forces, they ultimately surrendered because of starvation. Dolcino along with his companion Margaret of Trent was burnt at the stake in 1307. Mohammedís concern for Dolcino welfare may be because both men held the same view on marriage and women.

After Mahomet leaves the two poets are joined by another wounded shade named Pier da Medicina. He knows the Pilgrim, having seen him in Italy. Pier da Medicina was from a town named Medicina in the Po River Valley near Balogina. This is "the gentle plain" that lay between the towns of Vercelli and Marcabo. Pier da Medicina caused conflict between the Polenta and Malatesta families.

His message is for two leading citizens of Fano, a small town on the Adriatic, south of Rimini. The two men are Guido del Cassero and Angiolello di Carignano Midicina wants to warns them against Malatestino (the "traitor, who sees with only one eye"). Malatestino plans to throw them off his ship and drown them. Once dead they will not need to pray to escape "Focaraís wind", a fierce wind that destroyed ships passing by the promontory of Focara near Cattolica.

As a matter of history Malatestino, Lord of Rimini from 1312 to 1317 had the two men drowned to gain control of Fano. He invited them to meet him on a ship off the coastal city of Catholica, which lies between Rimini and Fano. And had them thrown overboard to their deaths.

The Pilgrim promises to deliver Medicinaís message if the latter shows him who he referred to when he has said, "...the land that someone with one here / wishes heíd never fed his eyes upon." At this Medicina shows the Pilgrim a shade whose tongue has been cut off. He is Caius Scribonius Curio who had been one of Pompeiiís tribune. He leaves Pompeii and joins Caesar. The "land" that he regrets having seen is the city of Rimini. It lay near the Rubicon River where the river drains off into the Adriatic sea. At that time Rubican served as a boundary between Craul and the Romban Republic. Caesar was hesitating to cross the Rubicon but Curio persuaded him to do so and attack Rome. This led to the Rome civil war. Through his words Curio brought about the civil war. Through his words Curio brought about the civil war. His punishment is that his tongue has been cut off, rendering him mute. It is fitting that the mouth that caused so much grief should be rendered speechless.

A shade whose hands are severed from his arms addresses the Pilgrim next. He says he is "Mosco". In Canto VI the Pilgrim had asked Ciacco about this man. Mosco was a member of the Lamberti family of Florence. It was his advice "Whatís done is over with" that caused Florence to be split into the fending Guelf and Ghibelline parties. The story goes that Buondelmonte de Buondxelmonti broke his engagement with Lambertuccio degli Amideiís daughter. The Uberti family wanted revenge Mosco persuaded them to kill Buandelmonte saying that even a milder form of revenge (e.g. beating) would incur as much hatred as the most severe form (murder).

Thus it was Mosco who led to strife in Florence causing a rift between its citizens. Keeping this in mind the Pilgrimís reply to Mosco, "And of death for all your clan" is meant to hurt the sinner. His family died in the ensuing political feud. The Pilgrimís words meet their mark and Mosco mad with grief goes away from there. It would appear that the result of his actions causes him more pain than even the brutality of Hell. "Hell" is not just physical anguish but also mental torment. When a sinner realizes what his deeds have done to him and to others, his wishes he could undo them. This constitutes mental anguish. The reader should consider both the mental and physical pain of the sinners punished in Hell.

Before describing the next sinner Dante excites the readers interest by maintaining that if he didnít believe in his own honesty he would hesitate to claim t he truth of the experience. This is a device Dante often employs before describing something fantastic or incredible. Not only does it make the readers eager but also serves to subtly point out the fact that in "Hell" or in the infernal realm there are many bizarre things that mortal men are unacquainted with what he sees in this instance is a headless body moving in the bolgia. The severed head is held by its hair (in the bodyís hand) like one holds a lantern. This shade approaches the two poets and identifies itself as Bertram de Born. He lived in the second half of the twelfth century. He was keenly interested in the politics of his time and his poetry reflected his interest. He incited Prince Henry ("young king") to revolt against his father, Henry II, king of England.

Bertram compares the rift he causes between father and son to a similar one caused by Achitophel between Absalom and David. Achitophel incited Absalom to rebel against David, his father and king.

Bertramís sin is evil indeed because it causes separation between blood relatives. The father is the life giver to his son. The tie between parent and child is a scared one. It is this tie that Bertramís evil counsel sunders. Just as he caused the separation between the life giver father and son, now in Hell he finds his head cut off from its life-source (the body). As he bitterly points out himself, "In me you see the perfect Contrapasso!"

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